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April 26, 2004


As you imply, but do not state in your excellent post, ever improving technology, which drives down the the energy necessary to produce a given item, drives down the energy necessary to operate it and the drives down the overall cost to manufacture the item is a critical component of conservation. Such technological improvements also make it easier to create wealth, which allows nations to have both improving living standards and acceptable environmental standards.

As for an ideology, I like the idea of the stewardship of nature consistent with the long-term well-being of mankind. That means cost/benefit on everything with the goal being the maximum ongoing utility of nature for the benefit of man.

BTW, what the hell are you doing going to the store for only two items in the first place?

I'm off to go on the local seal hunt. Now where the hell are the keys to my Cigarette Boat? Oh yeah, I left them in the Hummer.

You know, Sebastian, I think this has to be the first post of yours I've read with which I could wholeheartedly agree. So naturally I think it's a good post! :-)

Just remind me why you want to vote for the anti-environmentalist George W. Bush again?

Part of the problem is that the dialogue on the environment is driven almost entirely by the fringes: The insane Earth-Firsters on one side who want humans to leave no footprint whatsoever and who view humankind as a cancer on the planet, and the insane idiots on the other who believe in self-correcting mechanisms that just aren't there. (Not that there aren't a lot of self-correcting mechanisms, but they invent many out of whole cloth, then act surprised when an area of ocean gets overfished.)

The reasonable middle is almost entirely excluded from the process, so decides to just lump it all until one side or the other emerges victorious, then either go along to get along, or defiantly do whatever they want anyway.

To the insane side on the left, CBA is a dirty word: If it's some form of environmental preservation, no cost is too high, no benefit too low. For the other side, the reverse is true. One side refuses to allow for any market mechanisms (despite the success of pollution credits), the other for any green space preservation (despite the success of market-based groups like the Nature Conservancy). Damn, but it's frustrating.

Excellent Post Sebastian,

The list of things people can do is especially appropriate this close to Earth Day.

The irony of one of your last statements struck me though: conservatives could come up with an excellent environmental ideology which is non-absolutist.

Richard Nixon and, after him, other conservative Presidents did more to clean up the US environment than just about anyone. If anyone deserves the lion's share of credit, it's Nixon.

Excellent Post!

It does seem that the fringes drive the environmental issues. I have often wondered why they go for the whole when they could just get little improvements that would have a huge impact overall.

It seems they don't practice the Think Globally and act Locally. (Which, I too have always thought was sound practice.)

I think we can all agree that businesses are out to make money and if they can make money and not harm the environment then they can be convinced to do so. Some people will always try to get away with something, but that's why we have laws.

I must admit Bush has done a few things wrt to the environment that I disagree with. Honestly, I am not too worried about the impact in a place like ANWAR, but I don't really see the benefit to our society.

But, at the same time I am for a little less regulation and more consumer advocacy. Speaking with dollars is the best policy from my perspective.

Good post.

I do want to protest, however, this notion that environmental policy is "driven by Earth-Firsters."

It is not, despite what the CEI would have you believe.

Environmental policy is driven by collaboration and conflict between a handful of mainstream groups (NRDC, ED, RFF, CF, TNC) and industry.

I agree with most of this post, too.

However, opposition to environmental regulation because of the law of diminishing returns is just another excuse considering the business lobby's and the Republican Party's (hey, some Democrats, too) complete opposition to early legislation, including the catalytic converter, back when returns had not begun to diminish at all. (Take breath)

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has hated all environmental regulation.

Now, if you want me to take it up with the Wall Street Journal editorial page, good luck. I'll just cut out the middle man and join Earth First.

It may be more accurate to say that the fringe drives public perception because that seems to be what makes the news.

I would love Americans becoming more environmentally aware! Especially since my house is 2 meters below sea-level - and the sea only 10 km away ;-))
It will be hard though. Whenever I visited the US I found it really really hard to get *anywhere* without a car. I remember staying a few weeks in a hotel in Washington and not being able to reach the supermarket 200 meters away without riscing my live. No facilities for pedestrians at all, not even pavement...
I do agree that quite a lot will have to come from consumer attitude and care (our slogan was "improve the world, start with yourself"). But government can have hugh impact, not only in restrictive legislation but also via awarding legislation (tax cuts for investing money in "green companies", we have tax cuts for people who do not own cars or who go to work with public transport) and via promotional campaigns.

For some people seeing is believing. Come to Tennessee and see what pollution can do.

href="http://www.charlotte.com/mld/charlotte/8447959.htm?1c">Report: Smoky Mountains 'beginning to die'
Associated Press

A new report by the National Parks Conservation Association on the future of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park paints a dire picture.
"This park is beginning to die," said Tom Kiernan, the conservation group's president.

Don't worry, Mario. Instapundit's photo-blogging will save the day!

asdf's comment is spot on.

Environmental policy is driven by collaboration and conflict between a handful of mainstream groups (NRDC, ED, RFF, CF, TNC) and industry.

The conflict serves the nation.

The attention the fringe environmentalists attract through their "extremist" rhetoric/publicity is a good balance to the fact that, industry has a track record of working around even the most considerate legislation (i.e., they've proven they'll break the law unless diligently hounded). And since they're certainly not getting much criticism from the current Administration, I applaud the efforts of the environmentalists, even if, as I do more research I learn, their rhetoric borders on the melodramatic (I still applaud even this, given what they're up against).

Having said that, compared with all previous Presidents since Nixon, Bush II has a truly deplorable record here. And the real tragedy is that after Clinton-Gore's 1996 commitment to a more business-friendly technology-driven approach to regulation and the approaching end of industry's ability to skirt the NSR's intentions (which would have issued in a new thinking across the board), we could have had the best of both worlds...we could have had the exact sort of "excellent environmental ideology which is non-absolutist" that Sebastian calls for.

A president with any vision at all for the environment could have accomplished this, or at least not undone it.

It would be helpful if instead of posting just pretty pictures of the park which give the impression everything is fine, Instapundit would post some ugly pictures of the thousands of dead and dying trees that can be seen at higher elevations. You can drive through the park and clearly see something is wrong.

Gee, Mario. I wonder if there's a deeper pattern at work here ...

Could be that pesky pine borer beetle at work. There was a huge outbreak of them just a few years ago.

So far the beetles have killed 100,000 acres of pine trees across Tennessee, excluding the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Or, just blame it on pollution!

Damn Sebastian, what are you doing channelling Al Gore?

RE: shopping for just a few items:

I don't mean grocery shopping, though if you were just getting an item or two there, the same idea would apply.

What I mean is picking up a prescription from the drug store. Do you need a bag for that bottle and instructions? Typically no.

Or if you get a cookie from a coffee shop.

Or if you pick up a book or two from the book store.

And I'm not saying this is 'the' solution to all environmental problems. I'm just saying that you can take personal responsibility for all sorts of decisions which in the aggregate help out the environment just like pollution is mostly just a conglomeration of things which are relatively harmless in small quantities.

It's perfectly easy, when leaving from home or work, to bring cloth, canvas, or other non-disposable bags along to the supermarket, most of the time.

I completely agree with Sebastian on the shopping item...it's a perfect example of small gestures that can really add up.

I imagined once, when I caught myself leaving the water running while shaving, that the interview with God, after I've passed away and my heaven-or-hell fate is being determined, would include anecdotes like "the time you took a plastic bag when you could have easily carried the object you bought without one" as the factors that sent me down below.

In other words, it may not be the big hot-potato political issues that damn our souls (God may forgive us for choosing wrongly on the more complicated issues)...but when it comes to the obvious smaller things, he might be less generous.

RE: shopping for just a few items:

My point was don't GO shopping if you only need a few items. A little advanced planning so on one trip you get many things and make fewer trips in the first place strikes me as a better idea than worrying about bags. Anyway, I collect plastic bags as they are the best way clean up the massive turds dropped by my Mastiffs.

Thanks for sharing, spc67.

Thanks for sharing, spc67.

I do it all for the children.

Great post, Sebastian, and proof that even conservatives can be Green. ;)

Anyway, I collect plastic bags as they are the best way clean up the massive turds dropped by my Mastiffs.

They're also well-suited for cleaning litterboxes, although I can't stress enough the importance of double-bagging.

both have quite a few followers who take things way too far.

Can't the same thing be said for just about any contentious public issue?

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